Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is a hot ticket item right now. It’s a pretty sweet concept regarding what it has done for educating countries globally about proper forestry. The essence of FSC relies in “chain of custody”, which in flooring basically means the people have are able to know exactly what tree in a specific forest created the boards in the floor. They can track where the wood was warehoused, etc… The process provides a real accountability for the logging industry in countries that used to clear cut and sell cheap flooring.
Let’s look closer at this though and look at the flipside.
1) The record keeping and data load from such a process is quite intense. It creates a demand for electronics and e-waste is one of our biggest global threats.
2) Warehouses that distribute FSC certified material have to house the material in a separate location from non-certified material, thus increasing the footprint of commercial spaces in our community. Yet, we’re all complaining America is running out of farmland.
3) The FSC does regular site audits (by third parties) of all points within a chain of custody, thus requiring fossil fuels to be burned in order to get an auditor to and from the site.
Wanna read more about the other side of FSC then go here.
Sustainability is truly independent of standards set by a well marketed non-profit. It relies more on the measure of local economics, carbon footprint, and life-cycle analysis of a product or process. Flooring products from foreign countries that abide by arbitrarily governed associations don’t put money into the pockets of our domestic population and they require additional fossil fuel expenditure to transport. That’s why LEED gets it right because they give scores to building projects based a series of qualifications, some of which factor the origination point of building materials to the project location.
Ask any scientist and they will tell you that the proving or dis-proving of a hypothesis is given significant weight when you bring together multiple lines of evidence in the experimental data. I am not suggesting FSC is an evil entity by any means. On the contrary they have done great things for education of forest management for countries with little to no understanding of these principles. I am suggesting that granting the term “green” or “sustainable” to a product because it carries the FSC label is simply a politically correct form of greenwashing that adds additional cost to products if you do not consider other factors, particularly life cycle analysis and local economic benefits.